28 September 2007

'Brontok' waylays my pc

SPENT the whole day resurrecting my PC, no thanks to the Brontok computer worm.

Since last night after attending (and proxying for Doc Butch Borja, our city health officer, who's supposed to be one of the ninongs) the wedding of my cousin Jason, I noticed all my USB flash drive folders already replicating executables. Then my always-up-to-date AVG antivirus software was decimated. Checking the web for solutions, I discovered and ran this Brontok remover, but it was all for naught -- batutilan an hinayupak na virus!

When I brought the machine to EDP, we tried other approaches -- booting from a Windows 98 command prompt (could not read my infected hard drive), booting from my UBS flash drive (did not work), and using Bart PE (did not work either).

That left us no other choice but to implement the old fashioned solution: reformatting my hard drive to extinguish Brontok to oblivion. Fortunately, it was partioned so it involved only transferring my data files to my Drive D, reformating C, reinstalling a new OS, reinstalling most of my applications, and upgrading my antivirus to NOD32 Control Center.

As I write this, my PC is now faster and I think I'm back to 75% of its original functionality. And I hope that's the last encounter I will have with Brontok the batutilan.:)


26 September 2007

Sol Santos on becoming a Nagueño

NOTE: While the 3rd Senate Blue Ribbon Committee hearing on the controversial NBN project is still going on, I am giving due course to lawyer Sol Santos's reflections on the Mayoral Recognition Award he received last September 19, in the company of several others.

Becoming Nagueño: Reflections on receiving a Naga City Mayoral Recognition Award for 2007

25 September 2007, Quezon City

As luck would have it, I was one of 11 individuals and five groups given Naga City Mayoral Awards for 2007. These were auspiciously conferred on 19 September 2007, the 109th anniversary of Naga’s (or Nueva Caceres’) liberation from the Spaniards. Coincidentally or not, the 2007 Distinguished Mayoral Awardee, one might say the primus inter pares (first among equals) among us, happened to be named Liberato “Levy” S. Aureus for Literature. That anniversary particularly resonates with me because I once used the pen-name “Eli Angeles” as an activist columnist (“Heart and Mind”) for Vox Bikol, a Naga weekly newspaper, during the last two years of the Marcos dictatorship. Elias Angeles (after whom Naga’s main street is named) was a Tagalog corporal who led the local Guardia Civil mutiny that fateful day in 1898. The perspective of history or the passage of considerable time is also relevant here. Allow me some reflections, with a little help from remarks of some friends.

In general, we can say recognition is important, as an affirmation or positive reinforcement of the recipient and his/her/its work, which redounds likewise to the prestige or glory of the grantor and serves as an example or inspiration for others among the general public, in this case the citizens of the city. An award is only as prestigious as its grantor or its recipients. In the case of the Naga City Mayoral Awards, coming as it does from Mayor Jesse “Jess” M. Robredo, who is himself multi-awarded nationally and internationally, this is self-evident. There is something special about a good local award because it connotes the scrutiny then approbation of one’s peers and it beats the syndrome that “one cannot be a prophet in one’s own place.” My good friend from Tabaco, Albay, Francia “France” C. Clavecillas, a veteran community organizer of COPE Foundation who herself pioneered urban poor organizing in Naga, remarked that this Naga Mayoral Award has a “mas makaging an tanog” (more solid, resonating sound) than an international award.

The recipients too should be a reflection of the prestige of an award. For the Naga Mayoral Awards 2007, we had aside from Levy, for the individual awardees (in no particular order): Rev. Msgr. Luis R. Ayo, for Education; Ricardo A. Regmalos, for Public Service; Jean N. Llorin for NGO Work/Peace Advocacy; Nelson Henry R. Mejia, for Sports; Ben B. Secretario, for Academic Excellence; Julie Lucille H. del Valle, for Academic Excellence; Rev. Nelson B. Tria, for Community Service; Atty. Ricardo A. Diaz, for Public Service; Carlomagno B. Manuel, for Medicine/Community Service; and myself, for Peace Advocacy. The group awardees were: San Isidro Development Cooperative, for Cooperatives; VCA Cecilio Printing Press, for Culture/Print Media; Arejola Foundation for Social Responsibility, for Literature; Naga White Volunteer Fire Rescue, for Civic and Community Service; and Universidad de Sta. Isabel, for Community Service. As Mayor Jess himself characterized this batch, there were “none from the business sector.” The accent was on various forms of public, civic and community service. He emphasized the importance of having heart to serve the people, so apt for a city which is “The Heart of Bikol.”

Aside from the honor of being in this good company, I personally like this Batch of 2007. Levy was a former co-worker of mine at the Ministry/ Department of Labor and Employment while I was a working law student at the University of Nueva Caceres, with Ric Diaz as a fellow law student, in the early 1980s. “Mommy” Jean Llorin is a long-time colleague in peace advocacy, particularly with the Hearts of Peace (HOPE) [Mayoral Awardee for Civic Involvement in 1989], who deserves as much credit for the declaration of the Naga Peace Zone in 1988. I can relate too to the Naga City People’s Council (NCPC), for which its several-term Chairman Fr. Nelson Tria was awarded, because of a book on and a rapid field appraisal of the NCPC I had worked in 1998 and then in 2002, though no longer based here (the “heart and mind” kept returning). I can relate even distantly with Msgr. Luis Ayo, who is the uncle of another good friend Judge Antonio Camillus “Junet” A. Ayo, Jr., because of the 1968 Supreme Court (SC) decision Msgr. Ayo won for the Capalonga (Camarines Norte) Parochial School, upholding the right of parents to choose the school for their children, particularly the choice for a Catholic education.

As we said, the passage of considerable time. That SC decision was nearly four decades ago. Ricardo Regmalos was awarded for his four decades of excellent public service as a barangay official. Dr. Carlomagno Manuel was awarded for being the only one from his class at the University of the Philippines (UP) College of Medicine who chose to work in the country after graduation and for pioneering the first private hospital in Catanduanes, both more than four decades ago. The test of time, no less. This can only mean that these awardees kept clean of any derogatory record during several decades, which could have militated against any award. There is a special significance, therefore, about awards after the test of time. They also show that the city does not forget the good which its citizens do, even if it may sometimes take longer than usual to remember. But even for the much younger awardees like the three students Mejia, Secretario and Del Valle, their awards become a challenge maybe not only to keep clean (lest they stain their awards and the city) but also to do even better in the coming years and decades. Indeed, the theme of the 2007 Mayoral Awards was “The Quest for Excellence Never Ends.”

It will never end for Naga because it has a bountiful well-spring of good people, the Nagueños, who are the city’s best natural resource as Mayor Jess puts it, many of whom may still be unrecognized as they do their good work quietly. There are and have been Nagueño giants, like Attys. Ramon R. San Andres, Luis General Jr. and J. Antonio M. Carpio, to name a few whom I have had the privilege of personally knowing, learning from and working with, who are more oragon (great, or translate as you wish) than most of the better-known (because) Manila-based national figures. They are, or should be, truly the orgullo kan Naga (pride of Naga). They, other Nagueños like them, the people, the city and the contributions of Naga, all make one “proud to be a Nagueño” -- as Levy proudly declared in his response to the conferment of his award. Mayor Jess, alluding to the citizenship issue which had been repeatedly raised against him every election time, remarked that there may be doubts about his Filipino citizenship, but there is no doubt about his Nagueño citizenship. In my case, though Manila-born, I have chosen to consider myself a Nagueño, because of my first four years of schooling at the Naga Parochial School and because of living and working here for my best 18 years soon after graduation from UP and getting married to Doods. I guess the Mayoral Award “legitimizes” my claim to Nagueño citizenship. Besides, Naga has long been our domicile (the place one always intends to return to, or keeps returning to), and one can only return to one’s roots.

I wish to give credit to the Awards Committee as well as the Search Committee for my award which recognizes not only “full-hearted advocacy for peace” but also “people empowerment, and the advancement of human rights… and militancy that, among other cause-oriented initiatives…” In this time of anti-terrorism, it is to credit of the courageous leaders of Naga City to recognize something like “advancement of human rights,” “militancy,” and “cause-oriented initiatives.” Alas, there is still a role for this.

The contraposition of “cause-oriented” with “cost-oriented” came to my mind again when Levy commented on how he wished that the Mayoral Award came with a “cash reward,” just like Mayor Jess’ big-time Ramon Magsaysay Award, as if to say “your giving us credit through recognition is good but we need cash.” Levy said in typical levity, but actually at least half-serious, that he would not object if, in the future, the Mayoral Award would come with a cash award that would be made retroactive to 2007. Indeed, it seems unfortunate that genuine public, civic and community service often involves a “vow of poverty” where the best income is the “psychic income.” But the heart is, in real hard life, part of a body and soul that must be kept together. Maybe there is a role here for the business sector.

In ending, allow me a few personal acknowledgements. There are my comrades in various peace, human rights and other cause-oriented groups who were there with me in the work I am being given recognition for, notably Naga for Popular Democracy (NagaPopDem) [later renamed the Red Wine Party of Naga (RWP-Naga)] and HOPE. Elmer S. Casillan, who nominated me, and “Mommy” Jean, who endorsed me, were both with HOPE. Atty. Atty. Henry Gerald P. Ysaac Jr., who also endorsed me, is with NagaPopDem/RWP-Naga. And of course, there is my wife and best friend Doods, herself also a Manila-born Nagueño by choice, who has taught me what recognition is really all about, and that the best kind is the one which one does not chase after because there is no need to. I dedicate my award to Doods and other comrades -- for the love, inspiration, friendship, support, and camaraderie in this Happy Place, An Maogmang Lugar. Maogma man ako. Dios Mabalos saindo gabos -- gabos-gabos, ubos-ubos!


25 September 2007

Solutions right under our nose

THE SCIENCE Education Institute (SEI) is one of the 19 agencies attached to the Department of Science and Technology (DOST), which has been operating on a budget of P2.4 billion last year and P3.5 billion this year. This amounts to less than 1% of the total (0.27% in 2006, and 0.31% this year to be exact).

Compared to DepEd's P126.8-billion (11.2%) or the DOTC's P16.4-billion (1.4%) budget for 2007, to say that the DOST's getting peanuts is putting it too kindly. To add insult to injury, it does not seem to enjoy the confidence of NEDA, the national government's gatekeeper of the ODA. Among others, NEDA evaluates any project for foreign funding through official development assistance (ODA).

Consider this story that appeared in the Inquirer last September 7, portions of which deserve to be highlighted:

The Department of Science and Technology (DoST) had proposed a broadband project but this was rejected by the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA), which wanted to build the network through a build-operate-transfer (BOT) scheme.

In 2001, (Science Secretary Estrella) Alabastro said they submitted a proposal to NEDA for the construction of a P5.2-billion Philippine Research Education and Government Network (Preginet) that would link up research and education institutes in the country.

But NEDA rejected this proposal, prompting the DoST to fund the project from its own budget.

“At that time, their view was that it has to be done [through the BOT scheme] and that there were many things that they wanted us to submit, which was very difficult for us to do...They just never approved it [DoST proposal] so, since we thought it was very important, we said: ‘Why don’t we do it slowly? Start with whatever small amount,’” she said.

Albastro said they were hoping to get funding from Overseas Development Assistance money but their request was never processed by NEDA.

“So, we went ahead and funded this locally. [We are funding ] this from our own legal budget and as of now, we have about 80 institutions in the network,” she said.
I am mentioning this to point out the following:

(1) Government, using its own resources, has put in place a broadband network without the need for a controversial, secretive $329-million loan from China.

Of course, 80 agencies is a far cry from the 25,844 barangays that the NBN proposes to cover using a Wimax-based network. But if it will scale coverage down, and leverage its P4-billion annual telecommunications budget to encourage private carriers to provide the same kind of service, powered by the same technology -- which is what government is now eyeing to do in the heels of the ZTE debacle -- there's no reason why it can't be done.

(2) Government, at the same time, can also come up with exciting ICT-based modules that are superior to the dull lectures that can be expected of the DepEd national master teachers through the more expensive $460-million Cyber Education Project (CEP) being pushed by Secretary Jesli Lapus.

I have been trying the Modules in Science in Mathematics for Elementary Schools, which consists of two CDs and a teachers manual, together with their one-CD high school counterpart entitled "Learning Resource Materials for Mathematics and Science for Secondary Schools." Both were prepared by the SEI under the leadership of Dr. Ester Ogena, in partnership with the Advanced Science and Technology Institute (ASTI), a sister agency.

Dom Cimafranca previously alerted me to it in my entry on the CEP; several weeks back, I saw a colleague from the Bicol Science Centrum being interviewed about it on TV Patrol Bikol. This morning, I borrowed a set from Nestor Villanea, BSTC officer-in-charge; I'm bringing them home so that my kids can give it a try.

Offhand, I am greatly excited by the elementary modules -- they're more engaging, have plenty of 2-D animations, and uses characters from our lores to boot, like Mariang Makiling, Bernardo Carpio and Lam-Ang. The Macromedia Flash-based animated lessons are colorful, informative and instructive. Review questions are de rigueur towards the end, although improvements can be made on the audio.

The strong influence of the Lords of the Rings and Kingdom Hearts are evident, particularly characters that look a lot like the bow-and-arrow-armed Legolas, the axe-bearing Gimli and the keyblade-swinging Sora. Which are in fact a plus because kids will definitely love them.

Nevertheless, the high school counterpart, although equally informative, are -- too put it mildly -- a big letdown in terms of pizzazz and creativity. The people who put them together do not seem to be as inspired as the team behind the elementary modules. They definitely need a lot of improvement, presentation-wise.

Another downside (which is actually an opportunity, come to think of it, given Naga's edge in 2-D and 3-D animation) is the limited lessons covered. In Science, for instance, there is only between 8 to 12 topics available for every grade level (from 3 to 6); math has more or less the same number for all six grades.

I also believe the lessons for the first three grades will get across better if they were in Bikol; unfortunately, the lessons are mostly in English, with a sprinkling of Tagalog.

The problem with government, especially under this administration, is the lack of coordination among its agencies -- in both cases, the cash-strapped DOST has the demonstrated track record and expertise on the NBN and a promising product relative to the CEP, but it has largely been sidelined. Secondly, there's that bias to loan out humongous amount of tied money from foreign sources which are sure to send Johnny de la Cruz deeper down in debt, when proven, viable alternatives are there right under its nose.

But of course, it's not their personal money to bleed anyway. And there's lesser dough to be made on a low-budget agency like DOST.


24 September 2007

On that NBN-CEP overlap

IN MY previous entry, in the second-to-the-last paragraph, I wondered

"...why Secretaries Lapus and Mendoza did not try to reconcile their respective programs...and come up with a unified initiative that will focus on distance education as another killer application that will justify the humungous financial requirements of the NBN."
If these two gentlemen did not, it appears from the minutes of the NEDA special Investment Coordinating Committee (ICC) meeting a week before President Arroyo approved the controversial National Broadband Network (NBN) project that their colleagues at least explored the possibility -- 44 of them in fact, according to the GMA news story that went online last Friday evening, before Arroyo suddenly suspended the contract the following day.

Finance Secretary Margarito Teves presided over the meeting held on March 26, 2007 at the BSP Complex. It was attended by six Cabinet secretaries, four undersecretaries, a BSP director, and 33 other executive officials and staff personnel.

They included Assistant Secretary Lorenzo Formoso III, who took the cudgels in explaining their project during the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee hearing last Friday. In fact, Paragraph No. 50 says:
Assistant Secretary Formoso confirmed that there is an overlap between the NBN and CEP projects, specifically with regards to the communication/transmission aspect, that the Department is trying to resolve. He added that the NBN is versatile enough to handle VOIP, e-governance and education applications, as well as election-related reporting.
Which makes the following entry in Manolo's liveblog all the more puzzling:
8:18: Cayetano asks why CyberEd is required at additional cost when there’s NBN. Formoso can’t answer.

M (Probably DOTC Secretary Mendoza): Sec. Lapuz will reply on that. (Italics mine)

Formoso and Cayetano discuss why CyberEd is needed when NBN can carry video also; Cayetano asks why Formoso has spent hours trying to convince the public to support NBN, when he hasn’t tried to explain to Sec. Lapus that he could save 25 billion by using NBN instead of setting up CyberEd.

Read through the minutes and you will find sanity, or a semblance of it, still pervading government decisionmaking process: serious questions still being asked about an initiative (the NBN), and its clear overlap with another previously approved one (the CEP), about the wisdom of entering an industry where services are already being provided by the private sector.

And you will also clearly see what UP economists Fabella and De Dios decried in their paper, which former NEDA director general and now Inquirer Business columnist Cielito Habito also criticized here and here: the undue influence exerted by "tied" Chinese money in our policymaking, on the pretext that "beggars cannot be choosers."

I think there is more to this clear NBN and CEP overlap than meets the eye: this insistence on a separate system for the public schools, and not the alleged negative impact on our children that he rues about here, is what Secretary Lapus should explain.


21 September 2007

A Frankenstein project

I'VE BEEN reading through the transcript of yesterday's Senate committee hearing on the controversial National Broadband Network (NBN), courtesy of Manolo's liveblog over Inquirer Current, including the resources he pointed to, like PCIJ's transcript of ASec Lorenzo Formoso's powerpoint and Yuga's take on the project itself.

And in the end, I get the feeling that just like the CEP, the NBN started out as a good idea that later metamorphosed into some sort of a Frankenstein project, no thanks to the usual suspects in the Arroyo regime.

Why is this so? Let me offer the following:

1. If I'm not mistaken, it is intended to be a purely government network, connecting the center (Manila) to its subnational branches (regional, provincial and city) all over the archipelago. If this were the original intent, then both the AHI and Arescom proposals will fit the bill, since what remains of these agencies post-devolution in 1991 (with the exception of DepEd) are concentrated at the urban centers of the country.

But then somebody decided to include all municipalities into the picture, and when the smoke cleared, tadaaah, only ZTE fits the bill!

2. It is apparent that VOIP calls within the network is the only compelling service -- the killer application, if you will -- that government agencies will derive from project. In this context, having VOIP capabilities will make sense, eliminating the cost of long-distance NDD calls among central and sub-national offices. But then one must ask: how much of the current P4 billion government expenses for telecommunications go to NDD calls? I have a feeling this has been going down, eaten up by spending on mobile communication (which the NBN does not cover).

3. One selling point for the NBN is the connectivity it will bring to the Community e-Centers, giving far-flung communities "affordable access to a variety of services using ICT, such as Internet, e-mail, fax, computer training, distance learning, online services and other kinds of services/information beneficial to the community." In short, an internet cafe in the most distant barangays of the country.

These are fine, but then again, one must ask: is the national government really serious about providing online services to its constituents in these far-flung areas, which is what the CeCs should equally provide as frontline service?

Just check Malacañang's portal for instance. Under online services, the following are available: Passport Application and Renewal; Driver’s License Application and Renewal; Birth, Marriage, Death Certificates; Taxpayer Identification Number; Tax Payments; and Reporting Complaints.

Try them out and what do you find? A dead link for passports, and only one truly online service (NSO's birth, marriage and death certificates) that allows online payment by debit and credit cards, and door-to-door delivery of the certificates applied for. The rest do not involve financial transactions or are merely informational: clients will still need to visit the nearest government branch, deal with government workers, fill up papers forms, pay the required fees, et cetera et cetera. To think that the Philippines passed its E-Commerce law in 2000 yet!

4. Most, if not all, of the discussions thus far have viewed the NBN from the top -- from the point of view of Malacanang and its departments, from Congress and even the Manila-based media. But how about the bottom, or the grassroots if you will?

If many Filipinos anyway seem to prefer trying their luck in foreign shores, isn't it logical that the basic services relative to getting a job abroad -- like passporting and the POEA and OWWA certifications -- should be prioritized for online delivery?

Or if information about job opportunities is critical, these are made available online -- a localized JobsDB.com search services, particularly for seasonal work, easily comes to mind as a potential killer application. Imagine if this is made available to all towns and cities, or even provinces to start with.

5. Finally, if the DepEd remains as the only national government department with presence at the community level, it boggles the mind why Secretaries Lapus and Mendoza did not try to reconcile their respective programs-- as Senator Alan Peter Cayetano correctly pointed out -- and come up with a unified initiative that will focus on distance education as another killer application that will justify the humungous financial requirements of the NBN.

Which is why I do not trust this administration at all.


19 September 2007

CSSAC tutor is 2007 'Parasurat nin Taon'

JUDITH Balares-Salamat, a teacher at Camarines Sur State Agriculture College (CSSAC), is this year's grand prize winner for the just concluded 2007 Premio Tomas Arejola para sa Literaturang Bikolnon (PTALB).

Her essay entitled “Ringgaw nin Imahinasyon, Kawat sa Pagtukdo,” a first stab at creative writing which related Judith's experiences in teaching her students at CSSAC, entitled her a total cash prize of P12,500 (P10,000 for being the "Parasurat nin Taon") and a PTALB gold medallion.

Judith, who hails from my hometown Pili, Camarines Sur, bested my fellow Vox Bikol columnist Victor Dennis Nierva and Tabaco City's Jaime Jesus Borlagdan, who tied for the top awards in poetry. Nierva won with his “Antisipasyon asin iba pang mga rawitdawit” while Borlagdan, a previous PTALB winner, earned the nod with his “Ini, an mga buhay ta.” Each took home P2,500 and a PTALB gold medallion.

Writer Abdon M. Balde, Jr., a native of Busac, Oas, Albay who now writes from Las Piñas, was also on hand to receive the Premio Tomas Arejola Lifetime Achievement Award, together with cultural advocate Leonor Dy-Liaco.

Balde has won prestigious national literary awards, including the Palanca, Gintong Aklat and the National Book Award. Although written in Tagalog, Balde’s tales are set in the region and distinguished for their celebratory Bikol sensibility.

The awarding rites were held at at the St. Vincent de Paul Auditorium of the Holy Rosary Minor Seminary in Naga City in a two-hour program that started at around 3:30 pm and featured readings of the winning pieces of the three finalists.

Other honorees during the occasion, whose entries qualified for the PTALB, are available here.

In her closing remarks, Arejola Foundation for Social Responsibility vice chair Fabiana Arejola announced that the 2008 PTALB (the fifth edition of the literary awards) and the accompanying Juliana Arejola-Fajardo Workshop sa Pagsurat-Bikol are now open to interested participants.


18 September 2007

nagueño.com, without the eñe

1. NAGUEÑO DOT COM. After nine emails with Ederic Eder, editor of Tinig.com which co-sponsored the highly successful Wika 2007 blog writing contest together with the Pinoy Bloggers Society (PBS), my own domain name -- www.nagueno.com -- is now up and running.

I would have preferred "nagueño.com" -- with an eñe -- but sadly, it is unrecognized in the English language. So, nagueno.com will have to do.

A one-year webhosting and domain registration was my consolation prize for participating in the contest through this entry. The other big winners can be found here.

Happy with my Blogger account, I asked Ederic to help fix some technical problems in redirecting that web address to this blog and he gladly obliged. I'm still thinking how to put to good use that Dreamhost account he set up for me. Any bright ideas?

2. WITHOUT THE DOT COM. Incidentally, Nagueño is also the title of a collection of short stories by fictionist Carlos Ojeda Aureus, who teaches at UP, which Kristian Cordero recently gave me as a gift.

Lynn rollicked with laughter when she went through some of Aureus's lighter short stories during the Peñafrancia fiesta break; she previously gave Kristian's prize-winning poems a try but eventually gave it up, finding his poetry too dark for her taste.

3. OTHER GOOD NEWS. Mango RED-Infinity wins as the 2007 WPPP (Wedding & Portrait Photographers of the Philippines) Rookie of the Year. Out of curiousity, I checked the winning Photographer of the Year, who also has a blog; I may be biased but I think Randall and company's fantastic imagery is simply better.

Ansel rattles off the numbers for the Naga city government website. The upside: At number 323, it still is the top LGU website in the country. The downside: newer, better and more appealing websites have come out over the years, dropping the website from its top 100 ranking several years back. Which means lots of work and long hours ahead for the staff-challenged Naga EDP.

Finally, my series on the Cyber Education Project was recently featured in Martin Perez's popular weblog Akomismo.


17 September 2007

The world's longest?

LAST Friday, I overheard somebody say this year's military parade should already be the longest of its kind in the world.

According to Gil de la Torre of the Sanggunian secretariat, the parade involved more than 430 high school and college men and women contingents from all over Bikolandia -- from the prominent ones like the marching units of the Naga City-based schools like UNC and the Ateneo, to the most distant public high schools who braved the heat and the long wait.

Why don't we limit them? I asked Councilor Nathan Sergio early today. That would be difficult, he said. You're talking about extraordinary commitment -- every decision made to join the parade is not a spur-of-the-moment kind. It is made months before -- kids, parents, teachers, trainors, school administrators and other bit players have to purchase their uniforms, train hard for the big day (and these would take months), wake up early, prepare logistical support, arrange transport et cetera just to be able to get their moment before the reviewing stand.

And you will deny a bid and everything that goes with it? That would be heartless.

According to reports, the parade started past 7 am and finished at around 4:30 pm -- that's nine straight hours! Rizza Mostar of ABS-CBN was announcing the winners just in time for TV Patrol-Bikol, and it was already dusk.

Wikipedia here has this to say on its entry on "Parade":

The longest parade in the world is the "Marksmen's Parade" and takes place in Hanover every year during the Schützenfest. The parade is 12 kilometres long with more than 12,000 participants from all over the world, among them more than 100 bands and around 70 floats and carriages.
Do the math, and I think the recent military parade has a fighting chance: At about 100 persons per contingent (three platoons of 21 each, plus officers, plus drum and bugle corps, plus the majorette squad), we're talking of an upper limit of 43,000. The Hanover event, on the other hand, only had 12,000.

I'm not sure though about the length. Would anybody have an idea just how long would the 430 participating teams in the recent parade stretch?

Photo courtesy of the Naga.gov gallery


2007 mayoral awardees bared

ON WEDNESDAY (Sept 19), the city government will honor its outstanding citizens and organizations with the conferment of this year's Mayoral Awards at Starmark Royale along Juan Miranda Avenue.

As this news item revealed last week, "one distinguished mayoral award, three special mayoral awards, and seven mayoral recognitions will be given to outstanding Nagueños...in time for the celebration of Naga’s liberation from the Spanish rule which took place some 109 years ago."

The awardees:

Distinguished Mayor Award

1. MR. LIBERATO S. AUREUS – Literature

For uniquely preserving the Bicol language through his writings now in book form “An Sabi ni Levy”

Special Mayoral Award

1. MR. RICARDO A. REGMALOS – Public Service

For four decades of dedicated public service as a barangay official, making him a model for younger generations

2. REV. MSGR. LUIS R. AYO, H.P. – Education

For steadfastly fighting up to the Supreme Court for the establishment of the Capalonga Parochial School – a landmark decision that mapped out the future of Catholic education in the country and affirmed the right of parents to choose the school for their children

3. MS. JEAN N. LLORIN – NGO/Peace Advocacy

For her unselfish dedication to the crusade for women empowerment, social concern and volunteerism


For preserving Bikol literature, culture and language through the publication of Bicol compositions, religious articles and novenas, as well as original translation of novels and stories.


For being one of the few successful cooperatives in the city. Twenty-six years since its founding, it has expanded its services and benefits to members in Naga as well as neighboring towns.

Mayoral Recognition Award


For being the only Bicolano gold medalist during the 2007 Palarong Pambansa, duplicating his feat in the 2006 edition of the country’s premier national games


For being one of the Top Ten Outstanding Students of the Philippines for 2007

3. MR. BEN B. SECRETARIO – Academics

For being one of the Top Ten Outstanding Students of the Philippines for 2007

4. REV. FR. JEFFREY NELSON B. TRIA – Community Service

For dedicating part of his priestly life to the service of the city and its people as chair of the Naga City People’s Council (NCPC)

5. DR. CARLOMAGNO B. MANUEL – Medicine/Community Service

For being the only one in his class at UP Medicine to remain in the Philippines, pioneering the establishment of first private medical hospitals in Virac, Catanduanes and Sipocot, Camarines Sur

6. ATTY. RICARDO A. DIAZ – Public Service

For launching an honest-to-goodness war against criminality and illegal drugs during his short stint as NBI regional director, thereby pushing its ranking from 8th to 3rd among regional NBI units in the country

7. ATTY. SOLIMAN SANTOS – Peace Advocacy

For strongly advocating peace and human rights through his works, writings, scholarships actions and affiliations


For effectively responding to call for emergencies since its establishment in 2002


For promoting Bikol literary arts and culture through the annual Premio Tomas Arejola para sa Literaturang Bikolnon and the Juliana Fajardo Workshops

10. UNIVERSIDAD DE STA. ISABEL – Community Service

For spearheading two nationally renowned initiatives -- community extension service and student affairs and services program -- that brought honor both to the university and the city.


08 September 2007

Explaining a historical puzzle

DANNY Gerona's From Epic to History, the definitive history of Naga, mentioned something about the original San Francisco Church being different from the current structure, not only in terms of built but also its layout.

The old church in Nueva Caceres (the settlement built by the Spanish conquistadors), it said, faced Naga River as if to convey the message it is ready to serve the native population of Naga, the ancient village located across the river in what is now presently the Tabuco-Lerma area.

This is also immortalized in the stained glass representations of the church's history that adorn the structure itself. The first one, if I still recall correctly our visit with a Palafox Associates team (the ones I had breakfast with), shows a structure made of wood and indigenous materials, including what looks like tiklad roofing.

How would one reconcile that with accounts that place the original church to be parallel, instead of perpendicular, to what is now Peñafrancia Avenue? Our conversation the day before with Joe Obias, my former Vox editor and a local historian, provided the answer.

In those days, he said, Naga River is not the largely straight waterway we see today; it actually meandered into Nueva Caceres, into the current CBD, in a semi-circular fashion consistent with Gerona's account. The graphic above represents how everything probably looked like, with the old church in orange superimposed over the current one in blue.

A strong typhoon probably carved up a straighter route, similar to what happened to the current Balatas landfill many decades back. In conversations with Engr. Joel Martin and Jerry Abainza of the city environment office during our initial meeting with the visiting Czech consultants, I found out that some portions of said landfill is hollowed -- reminder of the river's original route until natural forces again carved up a more convenient, less sharp path.

Joe added the name of barangay Dinaga, Naga's smallest village smacked right within the city center, is actually derived from the word "pagdaga" (to fill up with earth), referring to the successful effort to reclaim the old waterway that became redundant when the new, straighter river path came about.

By the way, if you wonder why there are two major plazas (not three, because Plazas Rizal and Quezon used to be one single plaza before) within one small CBD comprising of just a few blocks, it is because what is now Galeria de San Francisco used to be the site of Naga's city hall. In this light, the placement of Plaza Quince Martires would entirely make sense, being right in front of the main city government building.

The same is true with Plaza Rizal: it is also located in front of where the old provincial capitol used to be, what is today's LBRDC Building (which houses Robertson and Land Bank) before it was destroyed by fire.

Do you know other differences between Naga as we know it today, and the Naga/Nueva Caceres of yesteryears?


07 September 2007

Para sa satong mga kaakian

Kolum ko para sa isyu kan Vox Bikol ngonyan na semana.

KAN nakaaging Miercoles, nagtiripon sa kaenot-enoteng pagkakataon an mga alkalde kan pitong ciudades igdi sa Kabikolan para sa sarong sharing workshop. An tiripon na idto ipinaapod ni Legazpi City Mayor Noel Rosal, pamayo kan League of Cities of the Philippines igdi sa Bikol, asin ginibo sa Villa Caceres Hotel.

Inda kun tano ta naisip kong ponan an programa sa lenguaheng Bikolnon, alagad sa heling ko, tama an desisyon na idto. Siempre, dai nalikayan an paggamit nin Ingles durante kan okasyon, alagad nagin mas sabot an paghiras kan mga programa asin eksperyensya kan pitong alkalde sa sadiri nindang tataramon.

An mayor na pagkukulang ko iyo an pagtagama sana nin 15 minutos kada alkalde duman sa ipinadarang imbitasyon: kulang na marhay palan iyan sa sarong pulitikong ginaganahan.

Pigsambit ko an pangyayaring ini tanganing idoon an duang punto.

Enot, an lenguaheng Bikolnon sarong pusog na basihan nin pagkasararo. Igwang naiibang birtud an pagtaram asin pagkomunikar sa kinagimatan na tatataramon -- mahalnas an bulos kan mga ideya huling dai na kaipuhan pang itradusir hali sa ibang lenguahe. Asin sarong kangangalasan an labi karikas na reaksyon kan mga nagdadangog -- automatiko an pagkasinarabotan, haros mate mo an pagtadom sa puso asin isip huli sa kawaran kan mga kudal na dara kan estrangherong dila.

Ikadua, kun garo palyado an satong lenguahe, arog kan saboot ni Tito Valiente, iyan huli ta tinotogotan ta ining magdanay na siring.

Habo kong tawadan an dakulang naginibohan kan satong mga parasurat, nangorogna an mga miembro kan grupong Kabulig. An totoo, orog na nagkusog an sakong pagtubod na nagbabalik na an buhay asin bagsik kan literaturang Bikolnon huli sa panibagong onrang inako kan satong mga parasurat, kaiba na diyan sinda Alvin Yapan asin Marne Kilates. Yaon man an Premio Arejola, na nasa ikalimang taon na nin sigidong pagtulod asin pagrokyaw kan lokal na talento sa pagsurat.

Saro ining peryodo nin ‘renaissance,’ kun haen pinapanoan an kakulangan kan satong mga pulitikong pangenotan an paghawas kan ronang Bikol sa dalnak nin pagtios.

Alagad an mga ini elemento sana kan production side; an mayor na problema yaon sa distribution side -- an pagsierto na an mga obrang nahahaman kan satong mga parasurat makakaabot asin pakikinabangan kan lambing ciudadano asin kan satong sosyedad.

Sa saiyang weblog, pigtuyaw ni Dean Jorge Bocobo an propuesto ni Senador Aquilino Pimentel na gamiton man bilang medium of instruction an mga lenguahe rehiyonal kan nasyon sa elementarya. Balido an nagkakapirang rason ni Bocobo, nangorogna an kawaran nin mga babasahon asin autoridad sa mga tataramon na ini.

Alagad para sako, dakulang oportunidad an propuestong ini na atubangon an isyu asin simbagan an mga kakulangan sa presente. Ano an sakong naheheling? Nagkakapira, alagad gabos nakasentro sa satong mga kaakian: Pagprodusir nin literatura asin babasahon na pan-aki, nangorogna idtong matabang sa saindang makanood magbasa (kaiba an binikol na mga fairy tales); asin nin mga instructional materials sa Bikol para magamit kan mga paratukdo (arog baga kan caton na pig-iimprenta kan Cecilio Press sa Sabang). Asin tanganing masusteniran an saindang interes, pagsa-pelikula kan mga ini, gamit an teknolohiyang 2-D asin 3-D animation -- bilang alternatibo sa mga animeng Hapon na haros iyo na sanang maheheling sa telebisyon.

Kun oogkoron, gabos na kaipuhan nganing magibo ini yaon na sa Naga.


Peñafrancia webcasts sked

DAVE first explored the idea of beaming scenes of this year's Peñafrancia fiesta using 3G-powered video calls in a comment to a previous post.

He will probably like this email I got yesterday from Reuel Oliver, head of the Naga EDP unit:

Greetings from An Maogmang Lugar!

The City Government of Naga, in cooperation with Bayan Communications, will be carrying live webcasts of major Peñafrancia activities from 07 to 16 September. Among these are the traslacion, fluvial procession, civic and military parades, and the Voyadores festival.

This forms part of our efforts to bring festivities in honor of our INA to Nagueños and Bicolanos living and working outside the region and the country. Our common devotion to the Virgin of Peñafrancia is one of the ties that continue to bind us together.

You may view the webcasts by visiting our website (www.naga.gov.ph; click on the Penafrancia icon on the upper right corner of the main page). We are also putting these in an archive so that you can view these whenever you want.

We would appreciate it very much if you could disseminate this information to your friends, relatives and other Bicolanos.

Dios Mabalos!
Ansel, by the way, has a short entry on building up the city government's Peñafrancia site, including a detailed program of activities lined up for the next 10 days.

The following major video events will be beamed via webcast. All times are standard Philippine time (GMT +08:00). The first on the list is a little over eight hours away as I write this:

(1) Traslacion - Sept. 7, 12:30PM
(2) Miss Bicolandia - Sept. 12, 9:00 PM
(3) Civic Parade - Sept. 13, 7:00 AM
(4) Voyadores Festival - Sept. 13, 2:00 PM
(5) Military Parade - Sept. 14, 7:00 AM
(6) Fluvial Procession - Sept. 15, 3:00 PM


03 September 2007

A separate insurance system for Philippine LGUs

NAGA is one of the battlegrounds of the ongoing ruckus involving the insensitive and ineffective Government Service Insurance System (GSIS), thanks to a series of emails fired by Elmer Casillan on behalf of his father Silvino, which the Inquirer promptly printed and its columnists, notably Ramon Farolan and Winnie Monsod, discussed.

Elmer is an acquaintance, being a mainstay of the local cause-oriented movements when I was still working for Vox Bikol.

His wife Marissa -- known as Issa among her Kabulig-Bikol colleagues -- is a former teacher at Naga Central School 2, where my sons and eldest daughter were schooled before I left for my fellowship. She is EK's Grade II teacher, who left NCS 2 because of a principled difference with a former notorious principal, who has since been convicted of a charge that Marissa filed against her.

When the late Silvino was finally buried sometime last week amidst a heavy downpour, Angel, one of my city planning colleagues and a classmate of Elmer's elder brother, joined the Casillans in laying their father to rest.

The GSIS, of course, is something all government workers are familiar with for two main reasons: (1) it takes away 9% of their basic pay as their share of the premium, to which their employer must provide a counterpart, and (2) its service has fantastically retrogressed to the depths of hell, starting when Winston Garcia hooked up with the Aboitiz-owned Union Bank and messed things up by introducing the ECard system.

No amount of spin and rationalization will cover up the fact that when the ECard and ECard Plus systems were introduced, the total number of claims and loans -- as Monsod's eagle-eyed analysis points out -- went down from 5 million in 2004 to 3.6 million in 2006. This has only fueled speculations that GSIS has actually run out of money to lend out to its members.

Sometime before the election, I wrote this post on the ECard fiasco, hoping that senatorial candidates -- including Sonia Roco -- would take heed. Alas, it did not come to pass.

Let me now add another fuel to the raging fire by resurrecting a resolution passed by the 8th Sangguniang Panlungsod of Naga last June 4, 2007, right after the local election fever has subsided. (My apologies if the text is somewhat blurred.)

Essentially, the resolution calls for establishing a separate insurance system that will service the needs of the country's local government units -- the 80 or so provinces, 130 or so cities (including the newly minted ones, unless the Supreme Court invalidates their cityhood), more than 1,500 municipalities and around 42,000 barangays.

If the A Teacher partylist group can make good on its thrust to establish a separate insurance system for the 500,000-strong public school teachers, it will surely bring the GSIS and Winston Garcia down on its knees.

The precedent? I understand the PNP and the AFP already have their own insurance systems independent of the GSIS. I don't see any reason why we shouldn't do the same for LGUs and the DepEd, in the face of the latter's continuing failure to provide effective and efficient service to its clientele.



"TARA Bud, tano ta dai ka nagbubuhat dyan? Maeskwela ka baga!" I asked Budi while preparing to go to work early as we have a Management Committee meeting at 7:30am during Mondays.

Budi however wouldn't budge, his face still lying smack on the sofa.

"Pigprobaran ko nang gibohon yan project mo. Dai ko makua ang patama. Magsabi ka na lang ki ma'am mong pigtabangan na nantig ako ni papa pero dai talaga kaya. Mas maray na yan kisa mag-submit kang binakalan sa sentro na bako man ika naggibo."

"An importante kayan, su experience. Bako man talaga su gayon," I added to buttress my point. "Toltol man bagang titser si ma'am mo, bakong arog kan iba."

My wife Lynn came down the stairs, bringing our youngest Mika with her and deposited her on the kuna. "Sige na Bud ta gibohon ko," she said. As if Heaven smiled on him, Budi quickly got up and started working on his project again -- a flower leaf woven from colored cellophane-wrapped manila paper tubes.

"Su mga taga-Urban ngani ma'am, nagbarakal na lang sa centro," Eve, our household help during the day who resides at the adjacent Green Valley urban poor community -- more popularly known as Urban -- butted in, volunteering an info that seemed to lift up Budi even more.

Meanwhile, Pep was letting loose plaintive cries alternating with deep sobs from the second floor. "Baba na igdi Pep. Darha na mga notebook mo igdi sa baba. Igdi ta na lang tapuson," Lynn called out.

Concerned, I quickly gulped some coffee, left my breakfast and went up to Pep. "Madya na baby. Apod ka baga ni mama mo. Sa baba na lang daa gigibohon assignment mo." But she wouldn't budge and the sobs continued.

Left with no other choice, I scooped my Grade I daughter up -- she's one of the biggest in her class even at 6 -- and her stuff and carried her downstairs. Seeing her mother helping Kuya Budi out, Pep knew she had nothing to worry about: they will have something to submit once classes start. And the sobs became fewer and finally stopped moments later.

"Tara Kulot? Ready ka na mag-school?" I asked Sofie as I came down. My future little teacher was already dressed up in her Grandview school uniform, then combing her rather large, Farrah Fawcett-like locks. "Balon ko Pa?" was her reply.

After dropping Pep beside her mom, I rejoined Buddy -- who had been helping herself at the already cold champorado -- at the breakfast table.

"Haen si Banok?" their mother asked, referring to Nokie.

"Oto, torog pa sa higdaan."

Checking on my watch, it's already 6:50. Sensing I might be late, especially because I still have to print out the usual two sets of the ManCom minutes, one for myself to help my notetaking, the other for the Big Boss, I quickly cleaned my plate up, finished my coffee and then brushed my teeth.

A few minutes later, with my backpack on, I was set to go on my scooter. "Babay Papa. Ingat," our big burly Buddy cried out repeatedly.

When I texted her at midday, I found out Lynn, burdened with our kids' projects and assignments -- some of which are no longer reasonable, and of which I intend to write the concerned teachers about -- did not report for her geometry class at Cam High anymore. She's now trying to help fix our eldest's science project -- a rather elaborate model of a virus -- in Pili, at the shop of our niece Glenda. In another hour or so, we'll be motoring back to Grandview, back to our seven wonderful blessings, and another long day would be done.

To think that only three mornings ago, she fired me an angry, deeply hurt text message: "Magtatagapaaram ka man daw maski agom mo lang ko ngarig gwa man lamang ako maisimbag sa mga aki mo! Kun mayo ka pakiaram, mgsuway ka na samu!"

"Sori," I texted back, explaining I was having a quick breakfast with guests of the city government. Last night, I whispered the remainder of that message on her ear before I went to sleep. "Ta masaen pa man baya ako kun mayo na kamo?"